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Google Doodle honors Junko Tabei, the first woman to scale Mount Everest

Marcus Gilmer

Sunday's Google Doodle celebrated the feats of Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the ceiling of the earth by scaling Mount Everest, on what would have been the legendary climber's 80th birthday.

The Junko Tabei Google Doodle

Born Sept. 22, 1939, in Miharu, Japan, Tabei and led a team of Japanese women to the top of Mount Everest in May 1975. Her Everest adventure broke ground not just as the first woman to summit the mountain but for the cultural statement it made in her home country.

In a 2012 interview with the Japan Times, Tabei said, “Back in 1970s Japan, it was still widely considered that men were the ones to work outside and women would stay at home... Even women who had jobs — they were asked just to serve tea. So it was unthinkable for them to be promoted in their workplaces.”

Nevertheless, she persisted, telling the Times, “There was never a question in my mind that I wanted to climb that mountain, no matter what other people said."

Everest was hardly Tabei's only conquest. In 1992, she also became the first woman to climb the "Seven Summits," the highest peaks on all seven continents, including Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mount Denali (then Mount McKinley) in Alaska.

Later in her life, Tabei's focus came to include preservation, studying the effects climbers (and their waste) were having on the summits she loved to climb.

But Tabei kept climbing until the end. Speaking to Outside magazine just a few months before her death from cancer in Oct. 2016, she explained why she continued to summit the highest peaks in dozens of countries.

Not just a great climber, but an amazing human, Tabei is certainly a person worth celebrating, in a Google Doodle and beyond.